The controversy surrounding the Korean history textbook published by Kyohak Publishing Co. (Kyohak) is fiercely escalating. That controversy has become a matter of public contention so that people are even calling it ‘battle of history’. Around both opposing parties, a not-so-funny comment “We should win the battle” is being bandied about by those who put up the left-and-right logic.
Academic circles and civic groups think the historical view of ‘New Right’ scholars is reflected in the history textbook by Kyohak. They are insisting that those scholars were encouraged by political force and came to enter the educational world. They are also listing conspicuously numerous indication points, compared with other seven types of history textbooks. Voices demanding cancellation of official approval for the Kyohak’s textbook is accordingly gathering momentum.
The Countermeasure Committee against Distortions of May 18 Democratic Movement History and Committee against Distortions in Textbooks (Countermeasure Committee) released a statement on September 23 to call upon the Ministry of Education to cancel government approval for the controversial textbook by Kyohak. Back on September 11, the Education Ministry brought forward revised and complemented guidelines for 8 types of history textbooks including the textbook by Kyohak. However, the Countermeasure Committee said, “Those guidelines are ‘just shallow tricks to elude the very guts of a matter’. It is most irresponsible thing that the Education Ministry came up with just a makeshift to correct a simple error on September 11.”
They added, “The textbook by Kyohak beautifies Japanese colonial era and dictatorship and contains multiple problems including errors in facts and statistics and plagiarism. It might be awkward to call it a textbook.”
And the committee pointed out sharply: “The writing staff of Kyohak said on September 11 that they admitted the indicated problems in their textbook but it was unfair to denounce their textbook as the one to beautify pro-Japanese group and dictatorship. On top of it, they raised offensive voices saying it is more serious problem that the textbooks now in use are left leaning. It is really like audacity of the thief.”
The committee demanded the followings: the Ministry of Education should cancel official approval for the history textbook by Kyohak; the textbook by Kyohak should be kicked out because it was written in a way of turning away from historical facts, such as acts of brutality committed by martial law army and damages on Gwangju citizens in May 18 Democratic Movement and the written records of May 18 Democratic Movement listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register; the writing staff of Kyohak should stop acting to denounce the criticism toward Kyohak textbook’s distortion of history as a conspiracy of the left wing to seize hegemony.
On September 16, 353 teachers in Incheon City announced a statement to demand the cancellation of official approval for Korean history textbook by Kyohak, by saying, “The textbooks which teach correct values and future value to students must be written based on the principle of accuracy, fairness, and universality.”
Back on September 3, members of women and family committees from both the Democratic Party and the Justice Party issued a statement to insist on immediate cancellation of official approval for the textbook by Kyohak which ‘maliciously minified and distorted the Japanese military’s forced mobilization of comfort women, wartime sex slaves’. They also called upon the Ministry of Education to let the National History Compilation Committee, which had approved Kyohak textbook, open grade list and the entire minutes and to censure officials who were responsible for it
Nomination of New Right member professor Young-ik Yoo for Chairman of National History Compilation Committee has caused controversy
Meanwhile, Young-ik Yoo, 77, a senior historian and a chair-professor at Handong Global University, was nominated for Chairman of the National History Compilation Committee. President Geun-hye Park placed his name in nomination for the position, said presidential spokeswoman Kim Hang in a briefing on September 23. Considering the fact that Professor Yoo has been well-known as ‘a devotee of the first President Rhee Syngman’ and a pillar of New Right theory, the controversy over his nomination was fairly expected.
Professor Yoo had said, “Rhee turned our nation’s stupid people to improvement-oriented new people,” or “We should call National Foundation Day instead of National Liberation Day.” He also had once worked as an advisor to the Association for Contemporary Korean History, which consists mainly of New Right scholars.
In a statement released on September 20, People’s Solidarity for History Justice, an organization to stop the beautification of pro-Japanese force and dictatorship and to block the retrogressive revision of textbook, said, “In this situation where the whole country is seething over the New Right textbook issue, appointing a New Right-line figure as a chairman of the National History Compilation Committee is an action of coup running counter to history.” They also urged President Park to immediately withdraw the nomination of New Right-line Professor Young-ik Yoo.
People’s Solidarity for History Justice is gathering signatures of Netizens in the issue/petition corner on the online portal Daum’s debate section Agora, with the campaign’s title of ‘Withdraw the Nomination of New Right Member Young-ik Yoo as Chairman of the National History Compilation Committee’.